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22 March 2024



22 March 2024

As part of the EFL’s Youth Development Week, which highlights the impact our young players make on English football, we sat down for an extensive interview with Bobby Hassell.

The Reds’ Academy Manager is delighted with the progress that our young players have made over the past few years, with no fewer than eight graduating to feature for the first team this season.

Many of those appearances have come in the EFL Trophy as we faced Manchester City EDS, Grimsby Town, Bradford City and, latterly, Blackpool, while minutes were also given to youngsters in the Carabao Cup, too.

“It’s a continuation of the last two or three years, really,” began Hassell. “I think it helps us being in League One with the EFL Trophy, which obviously gives the manager an opportunity to put some of the young kids in and give them an opportunity in the first team.

“It’s great for the academy because of productivity in terms of debuts and appearances – it builds that up being in League One with that competition. But it’s been great; the lads have gone in, took their chance and impressed in front of fans and the manager, and the opportunities have come up because of the EFL Trophy.

“So, it’s been a continuation of the last two or three years of good work.”

Emmaisa Nzondo celebrates his debut goal

Such has been the development of our youngsters – many of whom played a starring role in the Professional Development League North title triumph last term – that they have received recognition on the international stage.

Fabio Jalo – a Reds debutant back in August 2022 – is currently with the Portugal U19 squad for their UEFA European U19s Championship qualifiers, while a number of his peers are also with their respective nations.

“Currently, I think we’ve got six or seven lads at the academy set-up all away on international duty,” continued Hassell. “I very much doubt that would have happened before at a club like Barnsley.

“You’ve got Josiah (Dyer), Mylan (Benjamin) and Trent (Carter-Rogers); they’re at full international call-ups to Monserrat. Fabio is obviously a regular with Portugal, Vimal (Yoganathan) has had his call-up to Wales, Bayley McCann has gone to Northern Ireland, Jonathan Bland has had Wales call-ups previously, and Rogan (Ravenhill) has been in the England set-up previously and we’ve got a couple underneath that have been in the England set-up.

“So, there’s a lot of potential youth internationals at the football club, which is great for our academy. I think it shows the public and the national sides that we’ve got good players at Barnsley.

“The coaches do a great job developing these guys, and it’s a great club to be at as a young player because you get a lot of good opportunities to impress in front of a first team manager and expose your talents.”

Bayley McCann in FA Youth Cup action

Undoubtedly the most prominent name to emerge from the Reds’ academy is John Stones, who departed Oakwell for Everton in 2013.

The defender has since gone on to win every domestic trophy on offer whilst at Manchester City – topped off with a memorable Champions League triumph back in June – and established himself as one of the finest players in world football.

Not bad for a lad from Barnsley.

“I remember John Stones in the academy; he wasn’t a standout where you’d say he’d have the career he’s had, which is absolutely unbelievable,” reminisced Hassell. “He had a lot of injuries and had to play down because he was physically not there, so his pathway has been quite unique to what you see with a top player.

“John has had to develop in different ways, and now for me, he’s one of the best players in the world. Would he have been there if he’d stayed at Barnsley a little longer? Not sure. But you become a better player playing with much better players.

“He’s obviously fortunate to be playing for the best manager probably in the history of the game in terms of tactically, Guardiola is obviously one of the best there’ll ever be, and he’s been lucky now to play for him for a number of years, which shows what a good player he is.

“But I would say the foundations of John were in the foundation level of Barnsley Football Club, coming through the system with a lot of good coaches; he would have learnt a lot of good values, is very grounded still, so the foundations of his football career were all set here.”

Watch our extensive interview with Bobby for FREE, only on iFollow Barnsley.

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